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Trauma Center FAQ

What is the difference between a Level I trauma center and my local emergency department?

Level I trauma center is the highest designation given by the American College of Surgeons. It means our medical center is prepared to manage any type of trauma 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The criteria for this designation are substantial and include:

  • In-house surgeons
  • Immediately available operating rooms
  • Staffed and available CT scanners
  • Trauma-trained nurses and technicians in the emergency department
  • Surgical critical care
  • Around-the-clock blood bank operations
  • Immediately available subspecialists, including neurosurgeons, orthopaedic surgeons and transplant surgeons
  • Providing trauma care leadership and expertise to the local emergency medical services authority
  • A trauma prevention program
  • A trauma-specific quality assurance process
  • A trauma-specific education and research program—each year, we train five new surgeons and two trauma/critical care surgeons

An emergency room not designated as a trauma center is unlikely to have the staff, resources and expertise to optimally manage patients with multiple and complex traumatic injuries.

What is the difference between a trauma surgeon and an emergency medicine doctor?

It is common for people to confuse emergency medicine physicians with trauma surgeons. Their training and expertise is quite different:

  • Emergency medicine is a unique specialty requiring at least three years of training to deliver initial care for a wide range of medical or surgical emergencies.
  • Trauma surgery and surgical critical care is a specialty, which requires at least six years of training after medical school.

Trauma and critical care surgeons are experts in the entire range of surgical and traumatic emergencies. Trauma and critical care surgeons comprehensively manage patients from arrival in the emergency department through the operating room when needed and throughout their stays, whether in ICUs or on surgical floors, as well as in rehabilitation.

What are the benefits of having a Level I trauma center in the community?

Since the development of medical center trauma systems, preventable deaths due to trauma have decreased dramatically from up to 50 percent to less than 3 percent.

It is likely that all of us know or will know someone who suffers a serious injury. Most of us do not consider or prepare for this possibility. When someone you love is injured, it gives great comfort to know that the best care is immediately available at a verified trauma center.

Having a trauma center also benefits the rest of the medical center community. The tremendous resources required to be a trauma center are available to all medical center patients and this improves care and outcomes of even non-trauma patients. Lastly, in the event of a major disaster, a trauma center is an invaluable community resource for saving lives.

What can I do to support the trauma center?

Take specific steps to ensure that you and your family are as safe as possible: Wear seatbelts, use child car seats correctly and avoid drinking and driving. 

Second, consider donating blood. The UC Irvine blood bank has regular donation hours.

Questions? Please contact us at 714-456-8008.

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